Some 5 million homes are expected to change hands this year, according to the National Association of Realtors. That’s up about 30 percent since the worst of the recession.

If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, a just-released survey of real estate agents by Consumer Reports gives you insider tips on how to negotiate the best deal.

Real Estate Agent Virginia Doetsch is setting up for an open house. She wants this home to look its best.

“The goal is to de-clutter the property and neutralize it as much as possible, so that when a buyer comes through, they can imagine themselves in that property,” Doetsch said.

Doetsch always has her clients’ interests in mind.

But a recent consumer reports survey of more than 300 real estate agents reveals 86 percent said they have seen other realtors engage in poor business practices.

At the top of the list: steering buyers toward a home that would result in higher commissions. About 27 percent said they have seen other agents convince a homeowner to sell a home for less than it’s worth.

“We think you shouldn’t hire the first agent you meet. Interview at least three and check references. Also, see if they’re a member of the National Association of Realtors. Their members have to adhere to a strict code of ethics,” Mandy Walker of Consumer Reports said.

If you’re selling a house, don’t overpay the agent’s commission. The survey finds more than 60 percent are willing to negotiate at least half the time.

“A lot of people think 6 percent is the standard commission. But over half the realtors we asked said they typically charge around 4 percent,” Walker said.

A warning if you’re buying a home: a third of agents surveyed said you can get into trouble by underestimating what it costs to buy and own a home. 

“It’s not just about your monthly mortgage payment. When you’re buying a home, you have to think about paying your attorney, your closing costs and the title search. Then there’s ongoing costs of home ownership, like taxes and utilities,” Walker said. 

Finally, don’t skip the home inspection. More than a quarter of agents said not getting an inspection can be one of the more expensive mistakes.

Another mistake buyers make is waiting too long to review their credit reports. To get the best rate on a loan, you need a strong credit score of at least 740, according to

If you need to improve your profile, Consumer Reports said don’t wait until the last minute. 

All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2014. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not for profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information

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